Decoding The Da Vinci Racial Code


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I saw the DaVinci Code last night.  Intriguing story.  I now see why so many Christians are upset about the movie.  It does challenge  basic beliefs of particular Christian traditions (e.g. Divinity of Christ).  Throughout the months I have heard numerous critiques and reviews of the movie or at least the ideas being presented in the movie.  However, what I am struck by is the relative silence regarding the religious aesthetic and particular racial inference of Jesus and his descendants in the movie.  One of the main issues I have with those who take issue with this particular  movie is the silence on the racial dynamics and aesthetics of the movie.  As it turns out Jesus' descendants are white Europeans.  No surprise there!  Racial Constantinianism is a mutha!  This should be expected in light of 500 years of white supremacy and normalization (or what I call the symbolic universe of ecclesial whiteness).  This movie has normative gaze in full effect.  Why am I pointing this out?  Because I have seen little mention of this reality on blogs that claim to represent a stance against the bad habits of modernity (e.g. absolutism, etc.).  I don't want to give away the movie except to say that I found it interesting that one of the characters in the story that displays a concern for justice for women, dark-skinned folks, and the marginalized is characterized as a crack pot.  

This is one more Jesus movie that gives further credence to what theologian Stanley Hauerwas says about Constantinianism:  it is a hard habit to break.  I would also add that racial Constantinianism is a hard habit to break.  One wonders if part of the disdain for this movie that comes from particular Christian camps is the way the movie is purported to impugn the 'purity' of Jesus.  Maybe it does but the other question is this:  which purity is being impugned? These are initial thoughts…

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26 thoughts on “Decoding The Da Vinci Racial Code

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  1. Thanks for this. I think as one who has fallen into this trap, by not even realizing what was left out, I appreciate the reminder and consciousness raising.
    Peace,
    DC

  2. Anthony, you just spotted a very fascinating study of racism at work. Notice the only important thing about Jesus in the movie is his blood line. Nothing is even mentioned about his teaching…or how Christ’s message in any way could be construed to have a latent goddess worship component. I had to scratch my head at this…I was expecting a gnostic presentation of Christ, but did not see anything to sink my teeth into. That line was very speciously presented in the movie. Instead, the “mystery” totally came down to the blood line…which speaks volumes about what American pop culture truly values in an underseated sort of way. So, Anthony, I think you’re the first to spot the true horns of this beast. What has survived to our day about superstitious, hermetic European mystery cults is an obsession with the “pure” lineage of Jesus. This is more important than any doctrinal point.

    Really, I’m blown over by that now that I think of it.

  3. I’m so glad to see your post – I found you through Suzanne McCarthy’s blog (Suzanne’s Bookshelf). I’m a Mary Magdalene researcher/writer, and I posted about this very issue back in February:

    http://www.magdalenereview.org/?p=75

    Since then, I’ve seen a few Gnostic Christians supporting a rejection of the whole “bloodline” idea, but the issue hasn’t really gotten much attention. I think this should be a crucial talking point on the whole Da Vinci Code craze.

  4. Hey Anthony,

    Great perspective. I noticed the same thing when I read the book some time ago, though the book attempts to give more of an answer to that than the movie does. They explain it through a Diaspora theory, where some of those who married into the “sang real” were devote /”royal” Europeans. However, even this reasoning is a product of the normative gaze, in the end.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  5. hello anthony,

    thanks for your insight. i’ve been reading your blog for a bit (via dj chuang’s blog, i think) and, though it’s taken a couple of days, i felt compelled to comment…

    while i can’t say that i’m surprised by the racist subtext here, i still find myself kind of depressed about it. as you so rightly pointed out, racial constantinianism is a mutha! for all of the historical inaccuracies christians have been grousing about re: the dvc, this bloodline issue would seem to be the simplest to dispel. after all, other than european-types on holiday, one is not likely to find many people with this kind of fair-skinned “purity” up in israel.

    anyhoo, just wanted to say thanks for your thoughts…

    grace&peace,
    danso*

  6. Good thoughts! All should realize that the major reflections on the divinity of Christ came from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Athanasius, for example, was pejoratively called the ‘Black Dwarf’ by those who opposed the divinity of Jesus. Christianity did not begin in Europe, nor were its doctrines formulated there!!

  7. Anthony,

    I’m not a theologian can you explain some of the terms of your claim. It’s not your job, but…

    Maybe you have blogged on this topic in an earlier blog.

  8. I am not surprised at this, only that it has not been picked up on in any of the more thoughtful/responsible media. I have a similar take as an adopted child- blood relationship is not what makes one a parent, but popular sympathies as portrayed in many movies hold the blood line up as a point of near-worship. Both Jesus and Paul reject this as the signifier of relationship with God.

    I was also thinking, like Father Neo, of the many Christians in North Africa.

    Dana

  9. I think you were on target, especially in terms of how the move actually portrayed Biblical times.

    Dogma was a movie which also dealt with similar issues (although in a light-hearted way) but was very conscious and explicit in terms of the racial critique.

    You remind of a piece I saw in the Bean Soup Times (kind of like a Black version of the Onion which comes out of Chicago) where they interviewed Jesus about Mel Gibson’s Passion and he was upset because they went through all the trouble of putting the film in Aramaic and Hebrew and Latin but had a white actor play Jesus. “Jesus” went on to say that he felt better about Bruce Almighty because at least Morgan Freeman played God.

  10. Racism is a very important part of the history of Christianity. The Genesis of these stories occurred in ancient Africa, Asia, and Judea and then moved to surrounding countries after the Roman Empire ethnically cleansed Judea of the “Tribe of Judah.” In the subsequent century, Rome assumed control of Christianity and it then became based on European characters with European names and faces.

    It is undeniable that the European names and faces of the New Testament and Christianity cannot possibly be the truth. They were interpolated into the so-called Gospels by Roman leadership. It is important to remember that ancient Judeans were dark-skinned, as were the Gnostic Coptics (Egyptians) and the Ethiopians. None of these people would have had names like Mark, Peter, Paul, Phillip, Jesus, etc. Consequently, it is undeniable that these names (and faces) are later creations imposed by Romans who ruthlessly eliminated all competing stories and philosophies to establish the Christian Orthodoxy now referred to as the New Testament.

    The very fact that the New Testament and Christianity have been cleansed of African and Middle Eastern names and faces is evidence of purposeful racism. The fact that it continues to this day is undeniable. Simply look at how Christian nations have treated native peoples in every land they conquered and then imposed the Christian myth, which asserts the divinity of a white-skinned messiah, who is based on obvious lies.

    The Merovingian kings in France simply endeavored to steal Rome’s thunder by co-opting the Christian Myth to their own purposes by saying that Mary married a French king. This ploy was an obvious deception used to gain the loyalty of the citizens of the emerging French nation. Why would people who were so opposed wealth and power (money-changers in the temple, etc.) marry into royalty? It’s obvious that these French aristocrats saw through Rome’s deceptions and used them, just as Rome had. It is unlikely they were much focused on racism though, since their subjects were all Europeans. Rome on the other hand had been oppressing and fighting Asians and Africans for centuries.

  11. dear Seven,

    I agree racism is deeply ingrained in Western Christianity, but it has not until the past 500 years been a skin tone issue so much as an ethnic/provincial issue. “Roman” was more of a legal designation in Jesus’ day. But the earliest outright racism that took root in the church was anti-Semitism. Christians are only slowly confronting anti-Semitism at the root of our theology, which travels back to c. 100 A.D. Until about 20 years ago anti-Semitism was a core value of the church…and is the deep reason we’ve lost our understanding of the Kingdom of God as Christ taught it. But I’m happy to see progress on that front. There is a sea-change, esp. in our understanding of Paul, and it will I hope lead to a quiet second reformation.

  12. Seven,

    Since when did Simon (Peter), Markos, Paulos, Phillip, and Jesus become white names? Jesus is just a greek version of Joshua. Since the language of the time was greek, we see either greek names or illiterations of hebraic names. Really man, I think you’re reaching here. But, you seem to be sincere in your thoughts. I hope that you find true fulfillment in your life quest.

    Tim

  13. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galations 3:28

  14. Seven, may indeed be over-reaching on some of his premises, but I think it may be therapeutic for the church to make a habit of addressing the major figures of the Bible with their Hebraic names as a constant reminder that Jesus and his disciples were not white-Europeans. Once the church has been fully delivered from the hegemony of whiteness, than we can truly quote Galatians 3:38 as a reality and not a distant hope.

  15. Seven, may indeed be over-reaching on some of his premises, but I think it may be therapeutic for the church to make a habit of addressing the major figures of the Bible with their Hebraic names as a constant reminder that Jesus and his disciples were not white-Europeans. Once the church has been fully delivered from the hegemony of whiteness, than we can truly quote Galatians 3:28 as a reality and not a distant hope.

  16. Rod,

    I think you may have missed my point. Regardless of the “hegemony of whiteness” if you are a Christian you ARE Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise right now– it is not a distant hope– it is yours at this very moment. While the “hegemony of whiteness” has damaged the church (little ‘c’) it is helpless to deny your God-given position in the Church (captital ‘C’) or the Kingdom of God. In short, no social class has dominance over God.

  17. I can’t believe you are raising an issue about Jesus’ descendants being “white europeans”. What is the issue?
    comments like these belong in the past as they not only discriminate against “white europeans” but also the human race.
    It seems to me you have racial views you wish to promote.

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